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Top 12 Records Of 2011

There was a major rise in ultra-aggro sounding stuff this year. There was a conscious effort to make records that sounded real and gritty. Over produced, polished, triggered, and Pro-tooled perfectness was not in season. We even saw and heard about bands making records on tape and in analog studios. Bleak, dank, dark, murky, and swampy were key words in describing some of the best stuff that came out in 2011. The bleakness goes hand in hand with the horrid socio-political-economic climate across the globe and it ratifies how music can capture and represent the current human condition. Music is so powerful that it can supersede language as a means of communication and it is that primal quality of sounds evoked by instruments that require human manipulation and skill that draws people back to timeless and classic auditory adventures. When homage is paid to the past with respect and admiration rather than parody the result is a product high in substance and quality. It was a prolific year for the mighty Small Stone Records as they put out a flurry of superb releases in 2011 and my list is dominated by many of them. Along with the bleak there was also a lot of fun this year and the Small Stone material definitely represents the fun of 2011 in spades. Even the stripped down stylings of bands like Black Tusk and Kvelertak are loaded with smile inducing rhythms and tempos. Beauty and majesty was captured by Arch Enemy and Premonition 13 and speaking of homage, Toxic Holocaust do a fine job of that with their record on this list. It was also a year of friendship, camaraderie, and reconciliation and this was best represented by the monumental Big 4 (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax) shows in Europe and the US . It was so awesome to see all those guys hanging out and having a blast together. And although it was due to a tragic incident; it was incredible to see Gary Holt play with Slayer. I truly believe Exodus deserved to be on that stage as well, so it was great to see Gary in the fray. So read on and take a ride with me and my choices for best records of 2011...

Lo-Pan – Salvador

(Small Stone Records). Choice Track – “Bleeding Out”. After interviewing Jeff (vocals) and seeing these guys just kill it at SXSW this year, I was hooked. The Ohio band’s record is a must have for anyone who has ears and claims they like music. Power, beauty, deep groove, and serious chops. Absolutely fan-fuckin-tastic.

Ironweed – Your World Of Tomorrow

(Small Stone Records). Choice Track – “Awaken”. Albany’s ambassadors of monstrous riffs are back with their sophomore release on the great Small Stone Records. Blistering musicianship with great hooks and melody.

Roadsaw – self titled

(Small Stone Records). Choice Track – “Thinking Of Me”. 18 years and Boston’s bad boys are going stronger than ever. This is a Stoner Rock gem with pulsating rhythms, huge riffs, soulful vocals, and a sheen of psychadelia. Fire up your favorite smoking utensil, crack open a brew, and crank this puppy.

Tia Carrera – Cosmic Priestess

(Small Stone Records). Choice Track – “Saturn Missile Battery”. I don’t think I’ve ever been so mesmerized by an instrumental outfit like I was when I witnessed this Austin trio at SXSW this year. Their set had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. One of the most amazing moves I’ve ever seen was when Jamey & Jason switched instruments (bass/guitar) in mid-jam! An interstellar psychedelic journey laced in 70’s rock.

Freedom Hawk – Holding On

(Small Stone Records). Choice Track – “Magic Lady”. The Richmond, VA boys return with a very dynamic and exciting record. This record is a lot more moody than their predecessors with really great washes, textures, and color. There’s great full throttle stuff and some really good hazy slow stuff here as well. Perfect for the car or a lazy rainy Sunday afternoon at the crib. Ignite the bowl, sprout some wings, and fly with the Hawk.

Trap Them – Darker Handcraft

(Prosthetic Records). Choice Track – “The Facts”. If you think Black Metal and corpse paint are the epitome of dark and evil…think again. This Louisville/Seattle outfit that originated in Salem, NH will rip your head off and stomp and spit on your writhing body. These guys absolutely blew me away at SXSW this year and have got to be the most caustic musical offering in this list. The seething aggression they spew forth is jaw dropping visually and audibly. A gargantuan and ferocious mixture of D-beat, Hardcore, Punk, Metal, and Stoner Rock.

Arch Enemy – Khaos Legions

(Century Media). Choice Track – “Under Black Flags We March”. The Swedish Melo-Death titans return to form with a 14 track slab of Metal grandeur. The twin axe attack of the Amott brothers is sensational and Daniel Erlandsson is a drum god. Crisp, clear production. Soaring and beautiful guitar solo’s. Mid-tempo stompers. And full throttle neck breakers. Even more delicious than Swedish Meat Balls.

Toxic Holocaust – Conjure & Command

(Relapse Records). Choice Track – “The Liars Are Burning”. If you’re like me and think of 1984 to 1989 as the best years of contemporary Metal then this record is for you. Everything about this record captures the essence and spirit of those glorious years that brought us Thrash, Cross-Over, Punk/Hard-Core, and classic Death Metal. Put on your denim, bullet belt, and leather and get those horns in the air.

Black Tusk – Set The Dial

(Relapse Records). Choice Track – “Carved In Stone”. This Georgia trio totally blew the doors off of Fitz in Houston when they opened for Mastodon. This record, their second on Relapse, is an amazing continuation of the brilliancy of the first Relapse release – Taste The Sin. Extremely fun, high energy, dank, dirty, and raw, with Southern charm and character. Hail Swamp Metal...hail Black Tusk!

Kvelertak – self titled

(The End Records). Choice Track – “Mjod”. This 6 piece Norwegian powerhouse puts Punk, Metal, and Rock ‘N Roll into a blender to concoct a musical smoothie of epic proportions. Another really fun record to party to and rage with your homies. The lyrics are all in Norwegian, but it makes no difference because I’d be surprised if anybody can or would be able to tell what this guy is shrieking about.
Red Fang – Murder The Mountains

(Relapse Records). Choice Track – “Wires”. Portland’s Stoner Metal trio had a great year and this record put them on some high profile tours. Stripped down, murky, lumbering, and with a great sense of humor. These guys rock hard, fast, slow, and in between.

Premonition 13 – 13

(Volcom Entertainment). Choice Track – “Deranged Rock N’ Roller”. Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich is one of the foremost profound musical journey-men of our time and Premonition 13 is just one of the numerous bands he is in. Without Wino there would be no Doom and he has carried this torch since the 70’s. With P13 the heaviness continues with inflections of Folk, Psychadelia, Doom, Rock, and Metal. Some really awesome mood and textures on this one.
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